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Indicators in Practice

Aug 29, 2013

Climate Change Performance Index

The Climate Change Performance Index compares countries’ progress on their climate protection goals by ranking countries against each other and their targets.


Case Study: Climate Change Performance Index

Scope: Global

First released: 2005

Intended Audience: Government, Civil Society

Potential applications: Guiding national policymaking; spurring international agreements on climate change; supporting renewables investments.

Developers: Germanwatch, Climate Action Network - Europe

The Climate Change Performance Index ranks 58 countries across 15 indicators in four areas: emissions, efficiency, renewables, and climate policy.


Description: The Climate Change Performance Index compares countries against their low-carbon development and on their overall policy performance – it’s a rigorous attempt to hold countries accountable to their carbon dioxide reduction targets, and to reward them for focusing more on solutions, namely increases in renewable energy, which is critical to meeting global carbon dioxide reductions targets.

“I think our index regarding climate change has the most comprehensive way to look at the issue,” said Jan Burck, Team Leader of the German and European Union Policy group at Germanwatch, and one of the minds behind the Index. “And if you do it often, it works better and better.”

The idea for the CCPI came from one of the founders of Transparency International’s Corruption Index, who thought of bringing similar rankings to the climate change discussion. First released in 2005, Germanwatch now publishes the index every year at the annual Conference of Parties (COP) meeting of the UNFCCC. While the organization is headquartered in Germany—one of the leaders in the push for renewable energy use—Germanwatch seeks to bring attention to the relationship between the world’s developed and developing countries. It offers research, analysis, and outreach to support sustainable development.

“Governments and environmental ministers often mention the index in their plenary speeches,” Jan said, noting that the CCPI has been gaining attention at conferences over the years. “It's great to see that the tool you're making is really used more and more by the policymakers.”

But, he cautions, governments still have a long way to go. “We only have pledges, and pledges are extremely weak.”

The CCPI ranks 58 developed and developing countries that together represent over 90 percent of global CO2 emissions. The index looks at four main areas and tries to weigh long-term progress with short-term improvements to adequately capture the time-lagged nature of climate issues. The main areas covered are current emissions levels and development of emissions (30 percent of total score each), which covers CO2 emissions from various sources and sectors, as well as a target-performance comparison; renewable energy (10 percent of score), which emphasizes both the present share of renewables in the energy supply, and the future development of renewables; energy efficiency (10 percent of score), both the present level and the trend; and, lastly, climate policy (20 percent of score).

An interesting aspect of the climate policy category is that it’s based on qualitative survey data taken for all available countries from over 200 qualified respondents from civil society across the globe. These climate experts rank their national leaders on a five-point scale (from “very good” to “very poor”) on extant domestic climate change policies and international action (which is informed by responses to the UNFCCC negotiations). The national and international climate change policy indicators are both weighted evenly.

This latest version of the index emphasizes solutions rather than problems, as well. Performance in the areas of energy efficiency and renewables was evaluated separately; in past iterations of the index they were components of the sectoral emissions category. It also includes forestry data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, adding 20 percent more of the world’s emissions to the analysis.

So far, no country has ranked in one of the top three slots – because no country is apparently performing well enough to meet the ideal carbon emissions targets. The highest performers would have to be on track to limit emissions toward per-capita 1990 levels, which is the most significant emissions pathway that can be taken—but is needed to stay under a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise. “The emissions cuts are still not deep enough at the moment,” Jan said.

His team is always trying to update the index. “You always have to keep in mind this question: is this set of indicators the right set? What’s happening with new developments, like shale gas in the US? What’s happening if you can’t cover all emissions anymore?”

“In the end,” Jan said, “you reduce a country to one number, and of course it's just a tool and not the whole truth.”

Other indices will turn out different results. Taken together, however, various looks at climate rankings—from the LCCI to the climate scores of the EPI—will continue to be important for promoting international action. These indices can help countries track their development while staying within the bounds of the biosphere.

Top 10 Rankings for Climate Change Performance



2013 CCPI

2012 EPI*






Dem. Rep. Congo


















Costa Rica





United Kingdom


*Note: This represents a subset of the EPI rankings.